Obrazy na stronie


with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate fcorn and horror.

It cannot however be denied, that to fome this ftrange scene appeared in quite another point of view. Into them it infpired no other fentiments than thofe of exultation and rapture. They faw nothing in what has been done in France, but a firm and temperate exertion of freedom; fo confiftent, on the whole, with morals and with piety, as to make it deferving not only of the fecular applaufe of dashing Machiavelian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for all the devout effufions of facred eloquence.

On the forenoon of the 4th of November laft, Doctor Richard Price, a non-conforming minifter of eminence, preached at the diffenting meetinghoufe of the Old Jewry, to his club or fociety, a very extraordinary miscellaneous fermon, in which there are fome good moral and religious fentiments, and not ill expreffed, mixed up in a fort of porridge of various political opinions and reflections: but the revolution in France is the grand ingredient in the cauldron. I confider the address transmitted by the Revolution Society to the National Affembly, through Earl Stanhope, as originating in the principles of the fermon, and as a corollary from them. It was moved by the preacher of that discourse. It was paffed by those who came reeking from the effect of the fermon, without any cenfure or qualification, expreffed or implied.

If, however, any of the gentlemen concerned fhall wish to feparate the fermon from the refolution, they know how to acknowledge the one, and to difavow the other. They may do it: I


For my part, I looked on that fermon as the public declaration of a man much connected with literary caballers, and intriguing philofophers; with political theologians, and theological politicians, both at home and abroad. I know they fet him up as a fort of oracle; because, with the best intentions in the world, he naturally philippizes, and chaunts his prophetic fong in exact unifon with their designs.

That fermon is in a strain which I believe has not been heard in this kingdom, in any of the pulpits which are tolerated or encouraged in it, fince the year 1648, when a predeceffor of Dr. Price, the Reverend Hugh Peters, made the vault of the king's own chapel at St. James's ring with the honour and privilege of the Saints, who, with the "high praifes of God in their mouths, and a "two edged fword in their hands, were to execute judgment on the heathen, and punishments ። upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, "and their nobles with fetters of iron *." Few harangues from the pulpit, except in the days of your league in France, or in the days of our solemn league and covenant in England, have ever breathed lefs of the fpirit of moderation than

[ocr errors]

Pfalm cxlix.


this lecture in the Old Jewry. Suppofing, however, that fomething like moderation were vifible in this political fermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreeinent. No found ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Chriftian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confufion of duties. Those who quit their proper character, to affume what does not belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave, and of the character they affume, Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are fo fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with fo much confidence, they have nothing of politics. but the paffions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed to the diffenfions and animofities of mankind.

[ocr errors]

This pulpit ftyle, revived after fo long a difcontinuance, had to me the air of novelty, and of a novelty not wholly without danger. I do not charge this danger equally to every part of the difcourse. The hint given to a noble and reverend lay-divine, who is fuppofed high in office in one of our universities *, and to other lay-divines "of "rank and literature," may be proper and feafonable, though somewhat new. If the noble Seekers fhould find nothing to fatisfy their pious fancies.

* Difcourfe on the Love of our Country, Nov. 4, 1789, byDr. Richard Price, 3d edition, p. 17 and 18.

in the old staple of the national church, or in all the rich variety to be found in the wellafforted warehouses of the diffenting congregations, Dr. Price advises them to improve upon non-conformity; and to fet up, each of them, a separate meeting-house upon his own particular principles. It is fomewhat remarkable that this reverend divine fhould be fo earnest for setting up new churches, and fo perfectly indifferent concerning the doctrine which may be taught in them. His zeal is of a curious character. It is not for the propagation of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for the diffufion of truth, but for the fpreading of contradiction. Let the noble teachers but diffent, it is no matter from whom or from what. This great point once fecured, it is taken for granted their religion will be rational and manly. I doubt whether religion would reap all the benefits which the calculating divine computes from this "great company of great preachers." It would certainly be a valuable addition of nondefcripts to the ample collection of known claffes, genera and fpecies, which at prefent beautify the bortus ficcus of diffent. A fermon from a noble

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Those who dislike that mode of worship which is pre"fcribed by public authority ought, if they can find no worfhip out of the church which they approve, to fet up a Separate worship for themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men "of weight from their rank and literature may do the greateft "fervice to fociety and the world.” P. 18. Dr. Price's Ser





duke, or a noble marquis, or a noble earl, or baron bold, would certainly increaf and diverfify the amusements of this town, which begins to grow fatiated with the uniform round of its vapid diffi pations. I fhould only ftipulate that the fe new Mefs-Johns in robes and coronets fhould keep fome fort of bounds in the democratic and levelling principles which are expected from their titled pulpits. The new evangelifts will, I dare fay, difappoint the hopes that are conceived of them. They will not become, literally as well as figuratively, polemic divines, nor be disposed so to drill their congregations that they may, as in former bleffed times, preach their doctrines to regiments of dragoons, and corps of infantry and artillery. Such arrangements, however favourable to the cause of compulsory freedom, civil and religious, may not be equally conducive to the national tranquillity. These few restrictions I hope are no great stretches of intolerance, no very violent exertions of defpotifin.

But I may fay of our preacher, “ utinam nugis "tota illa dediffet tempora fævitia." All things in this his fulminating bull are not of fo innoxious a tendency. His doctrines affect our conftitution in its vital parts. He tells the Revolution Society, in this political fermon, that his majefty" is almoft the only lawful king in the "world, because the only one who owes his "crown to the choice of his people." As to the kings of the world, all of whom (except one) this archpontiff of the rights of men, with all the


« PoprzedniaDalej »